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Revellers at the Ivy
Photograph: Merivale/Jordan Munns

Things to do in Sydney this weekend

All the best ways to make the most of your weekend at home or on the town

Written by
Time Out editors
&
Alannah Maher
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Sydney is really getting back into the swing of things. There is plenty of fun to have at the hottest new restaurants, biggest shows, the coolest exhibitions, and even on the dancefloor once more.

It's been a bit of a soggy spring so far, but as storm clouds roll in and out over the weekend, we have you covered for the best things to do when it rains in Sydney and rainy day activities for kids.

But since some Sydneysiders may not be quite ready to head out into the world yet, we've divided what you can get up to this weekend into two separate lists: things to do out and about, and things to do at home. So if you're not yet vaccinated, or you're playing it extra safe, we have plenty of ways to keep you entertained.

The best things to do *out and about*

  • Film
  • Special screenings
  • Moore Park

You’ve heard about multisensory experiences, but this is extrasensory. Get ready to experience a new reality at Wonderdome, where stunning visuals and bleeding-edge technologies dissolve the boundaries between the digital and physical worlds. This pop-up 360-degree theatre is the largest of its kind to ever be seen in Australia, and it makes its down under debut at Sydney’s Entertainment Quarter this summer after beguiling audiences at Coachella and Burning Man. 

 

  • Things to do
  • Markets
  • La Perouse

At the picturesque Bare Island, Sydney’s Blak Markets creates a space to browse stalls spruiking a range of locally made arts, crafts and food from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stallholders – from native plants to award-winning jewellery, silk scarves, and ethically sourced bush foods, there’s an eclectic mix to peruse.

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  • Things to do
  • Fairs and festivals

It’s fair to say that what the city needs right now is a little festive cheer. Well, that’s exactly what Sydney is getting, as the annual Christmas lights once more light up streets and squares all over town. There will also be a program of carol singing, roving entertainers and other festive fun for Sydneysiders to enjoy. We've also wrapped up the best neighbourhood Chrissy displays.

  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Surry Hills

A pantomime within a play, that’s also a musical, The Boomkak Panto strikes the perfect balance of humility, relevance and all-singing, all-dancing ridiculous fun to see out the year that was 2021 and turn the campery of Christmas up to eleven. Writer-director-actor Virginia Gay has roped in her Calamity Jane collaborators for this ridiculous romp at Belvoir St Theatre.

 

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  • Art
  • Paintings
  • Sydney

Matisse: Life & Spirit, Masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou presents the largest collection of the revered painter’s joyous work to ever wing its way to Sydney, with thanks to the world-famous Parisian home of contemporary art. You’ll be able to soak up the spirit-lifting sight of more than 100 of his brilliantly inventive creations – not just paintings but also sculptures, drawings, cut-outs and more – from November 20 right through to March 13, 2022.

  • Dance
  • Eveleigh

After the year or two that was, supporting emerging talent is arguably more important than ever. That’s why Sydney Dance Company’s New Breed program is such a creative lifeline for the city, and for a fresh wave of choreographic talent to rise up under the supportive wing of one of the world’s most exciting companies, in collaboration with Carriageworks and the Balnaves Foundation.

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  • Things to do
  • Darling Harbour

A new immersive exhibition aims to prove that there’s nothing dull about space exploration. Presented by M-Live and created by NEC Partners, the projection virtuosos behind the wildly successful Van Gogh Alive exhibition that delighted Sydneysiders earlier this year, this dazzling light show will transport you on a planet-hopping odyssey through our solar system, including visiting Mars, Venus, Pluto and Jupiter, without you ever having to leave the ICC in Darling Harbour.

  • Shopping
  • Markets

From arts and design treasure troves to festive food fares, these Christmas markets have all the yuletide goods you need to make the silly season really special. Sort out a little something for the whole family in one trip and drag a friend along to drop some not-so-subtle Kris Kringle hints. There's festive markets in the Rocks every weekend in December, and plenty more Yuletide shopping expeditions around the city.

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  • Art
  • Photography
  • Sydney

Take the 'selfie', add a sprinkle of historical inquiry and lashings of fabulosity and you've got the self portraiture work of queer photographic artist and costume designer Gerwyn Davies. His new exhibition Iridescent is a series of 12 large-scale works being housed at the Museum of Sydney. Davies has captivatingly responded to and reimagined the museums, historic houses and gardens under the care of Sydney Living Museums and the NSW State Archives.

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  • Art
  • Sculpture and installations
  • Sydney

To celebrate what are hopefully set to be sunnier times ahead (both literally and figuratively), Tumbalong Park at Darling Harbour is hosting an enchanting sound and light installation called Sky Castle, with clusters of inflatable rainbow arches. While the rainbow arches are pretty enough to look at alone, when walked through the arches also emit xylophone melodies while simultaneously changing colour. 

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  • Art
  • Ultimo

There is a swathe of fascinating new exhibitions to explore at the Powerhouse, but we're pretty keen to get stuck into Clay Dynasty, a huge exhibition that sets to chart ceramic practice in our country while peering into the exciting future of contemporary ceramic artists. See over 400 clay pieces from the museum's collection alongside 70 new works from Australian artists.

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  • Music
  • Dance and electronic
  • Newtown

At long last, we have the reopening of Tokyo Sing Song, the iconic underground rave cave in Newtown, at the Marly Hotel. Parties are back every Friday and Saturday night through November and December, curated by Picnic. Over the summer, we’ll see electric acts, including Ayebatonye, Kali, Simon Caldwell and Ben Fester. Bring on the boogie, we say.

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  • Shopping
  • Markets

Get your browse on in the open-air, coffee in hand, and peruse for fresh local produce, creative wares, fabulous fashion and joy-sparking knick-knacks. Whether it’s the promise of a brekky pho or the racks of vintage threads that gets you out of bed in the morning, these are the markets that we've been itching to get back to.

  • Things to do
  • Parramatta

Something we missed for more than a quarter of 2021 was a good Sunday sesh, but the Albion in Paramatta is delivering the goods now that Sydney's back open. Soak up the sunset and see out the weekend while resident DJs and guests on rotation provide a taste of Latino, Polynesian, African, and Caribbean music from 4 pm each Sunday.

 

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  • Things to do
  • Games and hobbies
  • Moore Park

Pixar Putt teed off at the Bank West Stadium in Parramatta late last year, and following that wildly popular Sydney debut, it's returning this summer in the heart of the city at the Entertainment Quarter. Pixar Putt supplies reams of nostalgic putt putt fun for those of us who grew up wishing our toys would come to life like in Toy Story, or imagining what it would be like to face Hopper and his gang in A Bug’s Life, it's a dream.

  • Attractions
  • Theme parks

Scenic World is a fun way to experience the Blue Mountains at any time of the year but over summer 2021-2022 visitors can get more bang (or roar) for their buck with the return of Dinosaur Valley. A friendly apatosaurus with its long, long neck greets you in your vehicle as you arrive at Scenic World's gates. Then there's the awe-inspiring sight of a life-size T-rex swishing its tail and flexing its jaws as you make your way to check in. 

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Sydney

The second of four box-fresh establishments to open at restaurateur Brett Robinson's new CBD hospo hub Shell House, the Sky Bar is an Art Deco dream in earthy hues – a palette of burnt umbers, rich terracottas and creamy tones. The menu of cocktails and bar snacks is a streamlined affair, but with a surprising level of sophistication and the Italian-inspired food offering wears its ultra-luxe heart on its sleeve.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Circular Quay

In the basement of a heritage warehouse in Sydney’s CBD you’ll find a Sicilian-inspired cocktail bar named for the ill-fated wife of Michael Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 mobster masterpiece, The Godfather. But don’t let that put you off. Dimly lit and dramatic as the movie itself, Apollonia is, by sheer geography alone, a triumph.

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  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Newtown

What's in a name? Well, if that name is Odd Culture Newtown, there's not much left to the imagination. King Street's newest natty joint is going hard on the ferments, wild yeasts and all things bubbly. Taking over the coveted Happy Chef space (vale), Odd Culture is a two-level craft beer, natural wine and ferment-happy diner from the group that brought us the Oxford Tav, the Old Fitz and the Duke of Enmore. 

  • Things to do
  • Pop-up locations
  • The Rocks

If there’s something we Sydneysiders love, it’s pretty pink things. Preferably ones that’ll make our Insta feeds pop. Sugar Republic, an interactive art exhibition, first came to life in 2018. Since its launch, Sugar Republic has toured the East Coast of Australia, inviting visitors to relive their childhood through eye-popping, candy-themed rooms, designed for maximum selfie perfection. 

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  • Things to do
  • Food and drink
  • Alexandria

Ma chère Mademoiselle, get ready for your next visit to the Grounds of Alexandria to be entirely more magical. A powerful spell has been cast over the precinct to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Disney’s animated classic Beauty and the Beast, filling the Grounds with spectacular scenes inspired by the beloved classic film. Come on and lift your glass and be their guest, there are also some on-theme treats and cocktails to sample on your visit.

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  • Things to do
  • Food and drink
  • Sydney

Guests at Karen's Diner are invited to “live out [their] Karen dreams and be rude to the waitstaff”. But if you're not naturally inclined to kick up a stink, get ready for an existential crisis. When we visit, we find that many of the staff – dressed in cute, retro, pastel-perfect American diner uniforms circa 1950, apropos of, well, nothing – are just there to punk us. From the moment you walk in, the maître d' lays it on thick with the eye-rolling. 

  • Restaurants
  • Sydney

Sydney's home of theatrical feasts, Nel in the CBD, is getting into the spirit of the season with a culinary salute to all things Christmas in the form of an 11-course degustation. And much like its extremely popular Disney-themed multi-course extravaganzas, you can expect top-flight culinary excellence seasoned with more than a little tongue-in-cheek whimsy. 

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  • Comedy
  • Comedy festival
  • Marrickville

As we stumble our way out of Sydney’s Lockdown 2.0 and back into the world of real-life events, we sure could use a laugh, huh? This is where the Laugh Outta Lockdown festival comes in. Getting the chuckles going through to December 18 across the Factory Theatre and the Comedy Store, the line-up features some of local comedy’s best – with sets from Aaron ChenSam TauntonMichael HingNina Oyama, Gabbi Bolt, Mitchell Coombs and more. 

  • Things to do
  • Potts Point

The Bamboozle Room is an entire fantasy of its own with ritzy flapper energy, Great Gatsby-esque style, flowing beverages a good meal. The immersive charm is switched on from the moment we enter. This full-time haunt for cabaret dinner shows gathers all the feathery, glittery, charming best expectations of proper burlesque and throws in some oddballs and unexpected elements.

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  • Things to do
  • Sydney

Looking for something a little different for your next weekend catch up or special celebration? Head underground at CBD party bar the Prince of York on a Saturday afternoon. Head past the exposed brick and geometric prints and you’ll find a fancy, boozy daytime dining event amongst the low lighting, lush velvety couches and scattered disco balls of bar-within-a-bar, Pamela’s – complete with drag queens.

  • Museums
  • History

Sydney is home to some pretty fascinating museums, places where you can learn about ships, time, military history, society, the police force and more. Rain or shine, head out on a journey of discovery at these all-weather-friendly houses of knowledge. You'll learn about fascinating natural histories, scientific endeavours, design innovations and the many surprising stories that have made this city everything it is today.

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  • Sport and fitness
  • Walks

From easy breezy coastal walks to half-day bush hikes and multi-day expeditions, Sydney’s blessed with many different walking paths that’ll suit amblers of all abilities. Take a look at our list of 13 walks in Sydney that’ll take you over dramatic sandstone cliffs, cobbled stone paths, sandy inlets and well-trodden boardwalks.

Find the best things to do *at home*

  • Shopping
  • Gifts

If you get a kick out of making purchases from local makers and artists, check out the new online directory from the team behind Sydney's biannual Etsy Made Local markets. You’ll discover gifts that practically scream “Yes, I’m the hip family member living in Sydney. Lockdowns aside, this affords me superior culture and taste” – like handcrafted ceramic wares, chunky statement earrings ripped from an art teacher’s wildest dreams, and socks and apparel emblazoned with quirky Australiana-invoking imagery of Chiko rolls and pink gallahs. 

 

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  • Things to do
  • Weird & Wonderful

Keepers have just welcomed five purrfect new African lion cubs into the Taronga family. This is the first time Taronga Zoo has had lion cubs in over 18 years. While the babes are still finding their paws, the public will be able to gain live behind-the-scenes access to watch the cubs grow on what the zoo is calling ‘Cub Cam’. With a small tax-deductible donation of just $7, you can access a 24/7 live stream. There is also plenty more free livestreams and keeper talks to watch on Taronga TV.

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  • Shopping
  • Book stores

It's one of life's simple joys, flicking through the pages of a must-read book. But it doesn’t work so well if you’re doing the household chores. That’s when the joy of listening to an audiobook kicks in. There are millions of brilliant audiobooks on the go, and some of them are even free. Plus there’s the added bonus of hanging out aurally with famous Aussies as they read the books of also famous authors – and even sometimes their own.

 

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  • Shopping
  • Homewares

You might as well take the opportunity to make your space really yours. To help you figure out your budget, we've categorised the stores on our list by a metric close to the Time Out heart: booze. You've got your 'goon' budget for objects that won't break the bank, your 'beer' budget that factors in posher craft brews as well as unassuming ales, and the 'Champagne' budget for those seeking out those top-of-the-line, showily upper-market finds. 

 

  • Shopping
  • Homewares

Do you suffer from the black thumb? Don't despair. Pour one out for those succulents you over-watered, and that supposedly drought-resistant bloomer that crumbled to dust on your watch. Marrickville's own foliage whisperer Felicity Keep, the owner and director of PlantGirl, is here to help. Take these tips and order up some foliage friends from the best plant shops and nurseries that deliver in Sydney to brighten up your space this spring.

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  • Shopping
  • Arts and crafts

We’ve all been staring at our walls a bit more than normal of late. Which is why it’s a great idea to brighten those large-scale canvases with, well, some actual canvases. But buying art can be an expensive endeavour. One way to brighten up your home without busting the budget is to snap up a print instead. We've rounded up a few of our favourite places to pick up prints in Sydney, all of which can be ordered online too.

 

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  • Shopping
  • Cosmetics

We could all use a little tender love and care right about now, not to mention some respite from the innumerable stresses of lockdown life. Establish some time for self-pampering and support a business from Sydney or regional New South Wales while you're at it with our tried and tested product suggestions. Our list focuses on ranges that hero natural and native ingredients, and that are as gentle on the earth as they are on your body.

  • Things to do
  • Talks and discussions
  • Sydney

We might not be able to stroll into the Museum of Sydney, Hyde Park Barracks or Vaucluse House right now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be inspired by the stories of our city, past, present and yet to be written. The curatorial team at Sydney Living Museums has created a scintillating and totally free online talk series to keep us all connected, with new chats dropping every Tuesday (with some bonus Thursday sessions too).

 

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  • Things to do
  • Talks and discussions
  • Sydney

Looking for some brain fodder to keep your mind off lockdown? The Opera House has just dropped more digital content to get the cogs turning. The cultural institution’s long-running podcast Ideas at the House gets a beautifully filmed treatment with a series of original, one-on-one interviews with some of the most inspiring women of the moment back in March as part of the All About Women Festival.

  • Restaurants

Let's face it, a lot of us are eating and drinking our feelings at the moment. That's totally fine, but as lockdown drags on, your bod might be craving sustenance of a slightly more healthy variety right about now. But what if we told you that there’s a better way to eat healthily? These top healthy dishes in Sydney prove that eating well can be just as satisfying when you know where to look. 

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  • Things to do
  • Games and hobbies

As fabulous literatti Zelda Fitzgerald once wrote in her essay Eulogy on the Flapper, “she refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn’t boring.” There are all sorts of fascinating ways to spend your days, so boredom need not be a thing. We spoke to five people about the cool and unusual hobbies that keep them eternally interested and interesting. Maybe you’ll be intrigued enough to try one out?

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  • Things to do

In the throes of the first stay-at-home orders in 2020, we all had big ambitions of totally transforming ourselves. But if you totally forgot to keep up all your iso side hustles the second restrictions started lifting, you're certainly not alone. We’ve done some investigating into the hobbies that might actually maintain the attention of your distraction-prone brain, even after lockdown ends.

  • Things to do

Gone are the days of booking a babysitter and heading out for dinner and a movie. But before you resign yourself to an absence of romance during lockdown, all is not lost. We’ve put together a dummies' guide to date night at home so you can bring cupid out of iso and forget about the world (screaming intensifies) for a while.

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  • Shopping
  • Delis

Make another night at home much more camem-bear-able with a feast of fromage. Whether you’re after the most indulgent, globe-trotting cheese board you've ever seen, or you're after one of the funkiest washed rinds ever to accompany a special bottle of wine, these are the cheese focused providores that'll ensure your dairy game is strong. 

 

  • Sport and fitness

During times of uncertainty, a reliable routine can really help. But if fitness was part of your daily ritual, you might be a little rattled by not having access to a gym right now. Or maybe you're just looking for new ways to get your body moving with that spare time you're now saving on the office commute? We’ve picked out some of our favourite online workouts by local experts.

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  • Things to do
  • Classes and workshops

With many of us spending more time just pottering around the house, there’s never been a better time to try your hand at being a literal potter. Although they’ve had to close their studio doors to the public, a bunch of local ceramics studios have adapted their businesses so you can get busy moulding your own mugs, vases and assorted sculptural vessels at home.

 

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

Taronga Zoo has relaunched Taronga TV, a digital platform streaming animal enclosures, behind-the-scenes 'sneak peeks’ and after-hours footage revealing what the keepers and the animals they care for getting up to when the park is closed to the public.

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